A laptop is a significant purchase, and one you’ll need to spend at least a few hundred dollars or pounds on. But it might not cost as much as you think.

Premium, four-figure laptops often get most of the headlines, though you don’t need to spend nearly as much for a great experience. This article proves it, with a selection of impressive budget laptops that cost around $500/$500 or less.

Apple is yet to make a MacBook that’s truly affordable, but it’s not all Chromebooks here. Plenty of Windows 11 devices make the grade, and offer full access to Microsoft’s operating system.

While some budget laptops involve taking a punt on a little-known brand, that’s not the case in this article. Below, you’ll find devices from the likes of Acer, Asus, Microsoft, Lenovo and HP. They are ranked, but something lower in the list may suit you best.

It’s also worth reading our detailed buying advice in the FAQ section at the bottom of this page, or considering mid-range and high-end laptops if you have a bigger budget.

Best budget laptop 2023

1. Acer Aspire 3 – Best overall

Pros

  • Great keyboard
  • Impressive everyday performance
  • Good battery life
  • Decent webcam

Cons

  • Not suitable for gaming
  • Display just 1080p
  • Only a 128GB SSD

Most budget laptops can only ‘aspire’ to be as good as this one from Acer.

Performance from an AMD’s Ryzen 7000 Series CPU is impressive, even if it can’t quite stretch to gaming. But in everyday use, an excellent keyboard and battery life are real benefits.

While the webcam is only 720p, it’s certainly one of the better budget laptop sensors around. However, the 15.6in LCD display remains limited to a rather underwhelming 1080p resolution, and you’ll have to make do with very limited internal storage.

But if you’re happy to rely on cloud storage, neither should be dealbreakers. Considering everything else you’re getting for your money, it remains a great option.

However, you may also like to consider the Intel version with a 12th-gen CPU.

Read our full

Acer Aspire 3 (2022) review

2. Acer Chromebook Vero 514 – Best Chromebook

Acer Chromebook Vero 514 - Best Chromebook

Pros

  • Unique eco-friendly design
  • Impressive performance
  • Great webcam
  • Good port selection

Cons

  • Display could be better
  • Erratic trackpad
  • No fingerprint or face unlock

The Vero 514 is a standout Chromebook in more ways than one. And if you’re happy with the entry-level model, it still qualifies as a budget laptop.

That version gets you an Intel Core i3-1215U and 128GB of storage, but there’s no reason why performance shouldn’t be good. Of course, the experience will improve if you can pay extra.

But the Vero 514’s attractive speckled design is consistent across all models, and it’s partly made using recycled materials (as are the speakers). The 1080p webcam is excellent, while there are plenty of ports for most people.

However, it’s not all good news. It’s nice that the 14in Full HD display has a matte coating for improved visibility, but it means content tends to look dull and washed out. You’ll also have to put up with an unreliable trackpad and entering your password each time you unlock the device.

But these kinds of compromises are to be expected at this price, and the Vero 514 still ticks a lot of boxes.

Read our full

Acer Chromebook Vero 514 review

3. Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 – Best for portability

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 - Best for portability

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Great keyboard
  • Decent battery
  • Compact, lightweight design

Cons

  • Prone to overheating
  • No backlit keys
  • Slow charging

It’s great to see Microsoft offering a traditional laptop at a budget price, and this second generation is a significant step up over the original.

Performance has improved thanks to Intel 11th-gen CPUs, and it’s great to see the Core i5 available across all configurations. However, most people will need more than the 4GB of RAM and 64GB SSD on the cheapest model. The other obvious compromise is its size, but the 12.4in touchscreen display is still very impressive in real-world usage. At just 1.16kg, it’s also one of the lightest laptops you can buy.

Power efficiency gains mean battery life is significantly better, although charging if slower than we’d like. It also tends to run hot, while the the impressive keyboard still doesn’t have backlighting.

But if you can look beyond these trade-offs and are willing to spend a little more, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great option.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review

4. HP Chromebook x360 14c – Best 2-in-1

HP Chromebook x360 14c - Best 2-in-1

Pros

  • Good performance
  • Great audio
  • Premium design
  • 360° hinge

Cons

  • Reflective display
  • Some software bugs

If you’re happy with a Chromebook but still want 2-in-1 functionality, the x360 14c is the way to go.

You get a 14in Full HD touchscreen here, with the 360° hinge enabling use in a variety of positions. An 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor delivers solid performance, provided you just need something for the basics.

A full-size keyboard and trackpad make inputting information simple, and you even get some great speakers. A reflective display can make visibility difficult and there are some software bugs, but if you’re happy with ChromeOS, this is a great choice.

Read our full

HP Chromebook x360 14c review

5. Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip – Best battery life

Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip - Best battery life

Pros

  • Incredible battery life
  • Great display
  • Full HD webcam
  • Good touchpad

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Very reflective display
  • Relatively heavy

If battery life is your top priority, look no further than the CM34 Flip. This convertible Chromebook lasted an incredible 19 hours in our battery benchmark, meaning two full days of usage is a real possibililty.

That’s not its only strength, either. While quite reflective, the 14in touchscreen display is very good for general usage. Throw in a solid keyboard, impressive trackpad and Full HD webcam, and there’s a lot to like here.

However, it’s important to consider the limitations of ChromeOS before buying one. You’ll also have to put up with relatively average AMD performance, while the durability of the chassis also makes it surprisingly heavy.

But none of these should be dealbreakers, especially if you’re looking for an everyday device that you don’t need to charge often.

Read our full

Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip review

6. Asus E410 – Best value for money

Asus E410 - Best value for money

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Dim screen
  • Annoying NumberPad

It might not score as highly as other laptops here but most people will want as much as possible for under £300/$300 and the E410 is a great option if you’re one of them.

Things like a dim screen are inevitable and not everyone will like the quirky design on the lid. We also found the NumberPad in the trackpad a tad annoying but Asus has got a lot right here.

The E410 has excellent battery life, a lightweight design and performance is good enough for basic day-to-day tasks. Ticking key boxes at this price makes it a great value laptop.

Read our full

Asus E410 review

7. Acer Chromebook 515 – Best display

Acer Chromebook 515 - Best display

Pros

  • Impressive 15.6in display
  • Decent performance
  • Plenty of RAM and storage
  • Good port selection

Cons

  • Underwhelming keyboard
  • No touchscreen on most models
  • Battery life could be better

The Chromebook 515 is a cheap laptop running Chrome OS, but there aren’t many real compromises here.

Asus has avoided the temptation to include a basic processor, opting for an 11th-gen Core i3 instead. Performance is solid as a result, especially when combined with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

This helps power a vibrant 15.6in Full HD display, while you also get plenty of ports and a slick design. They keyboard isn’t the best, though, while battery life could be better and most models don’t have a touchscreen.

But for the price, the Chromebook 515 is an impressive all-rounder that’s worth considering.

Read our full

Acer Chromebook 515 review

8. HP Pavilion 14 – Best speakers

HP Pavilion 14 - Best speakers

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Impressive audio
  • Good performance

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Stiff keys

The Pavilion 14 from HP is a good all-rounder if your budget will stretch, offering a stylish design, good build quality and decent specs.

It does a bit of everything with a fingerprint scanner, a good webcam, a touchscreen and B&O speakers making it a good choice for those that want a laptop for a wide range of tasks.

Battery life is middling but performance is solid, thanks to the latest 11th-gen Intel processors and other decent components. There’s also a nice selection of ports and good wireless connectivity.

Read our full

HP Pavilion 14 (2021) review

9. Microsoft Surface Go 3 – Most compact

Microsoft Surface Go 3 - Most compact

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Decent Intel Core i3 performance
  • Great webcam and speakers

Cons

  • Small screen
  • Poor battery life
  • Keyboard cover sold separately

The Surface Go 3 is technically just a 10.5in tablet, but adding the Type Cover (sold separately) turns this into a credible laptop replacement.

It’s possible to buy both and be within budget laptop pricing, but only with a basic Intel Pentium Gold chip. We’ve only tested the Intel Core i3 model, which is very good.

But you do get a very impressive webcam and better speakers than you’d expect for such a compact device. However, as you might expect, battery life isn’t great.

Can such a compact device be a laptop replacement for you? If so, the Surface Go 3 is definitely worth considering – especially if there are any discounts available.

Read our full

Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

10. Acer Swift 1 – Best Connectivity

Acer Swift 1 - Best Connectivity

Pros

  • Slim, light build
  • Strong connectivity
  • Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Basic performance
  • Stiff hinge
  • Average trackpad

Not all budget laptops are stunners – in fact, very few are – but the Swift 1 proves it’s what’s inside that counts.

While it offers a basic style and build quality along with limited performance to match, it will be plenty good enough for anyone looking for a very cheap laptop to do simple tasks like email and word processing.

Despite its low cost, the Swift 1 comes with some surprising features such as a fingerprint scanner, USB-C, HDMI and Wi-Fi 6. 

Read our full

Acer Swift 1 (SF114-34) review

FAQ

1.

What display should I look for in a budget laptop?

Firstly, you need to decide on a size. Most laptops will be 13in or 15in, but you can also go smaller if you want something even more portable or larger if it rarely needs to move.

Remember, the size of the screen will have an impact on things like the weight of the laptop and how many ports it has. A thinner and lighter laptop generally means less key travel and potentially durability, too.

It’s typical to find a budget laptop with an basic resolution of 1366×768 (HD) but if you can find higher you’ll be much better off – aim for 1920×1080 (Full HD) or better. While they’re relatively few and far between, a matte finish is less reflective than glossy and so easier to use in bright or sunny environment.

But matte displays can be dull, an area where budget laptops often cut costs. While OLED is unlikely, aim for an IPS rather than TN screen if you can.

2.

What’s important when it comes to budget laptop performance?

While not the only factor, performance is heavily dependent on the processor your laptop has. Many budget devices are equipped with an Intel Celeron, Pentium or similar – these should be avoided unless you only ever perform basic tasks.

Look for either an Intel Core processor or AMD Ryzen if you can – several of the laptops in this chart do offer these. Go for Core i5/Ryzen 5 or higher if possible, but Core i3/Ryzen 3 are good basic chips if everything else is to your liking. It’s also worth considering ARM-based chips from the likes of Qualcomm, although the battery life benefit may be offset by a hit to performance.

Almost all budget laptops use integrated graphics (such as Intel Iris Xe or AMD Radeon) rather than a discrete GPU, but this is fine for most people. Only demanding tasks such as high-end gaming and video editing require more power.

3.

How much storage and RAM does a budget laptop need?

Don’t confuse storage and memory. The latter – normally called RAM – is for temporarily storing information when you open an app or file, while storage is the space to store files and programs.

In both cases, it’s better to have as much as possible. Some budget laptops will come with a 512GB or 1TB hard drive, yet only 4GB of RAM. An SSD (solid state drive) is more common now and helps keep things speedy but look for around 8GB of RAM if you can.

Remember, you can also always use cloud storage if you need additional space.

4.

Which software is best for budget laptops?

These days, the majority of laptops you buy are running Windows. That’s been Windows 11 since its release in 2021, although it’s worth checking if any older Windows 10 device you’re considering meets the new hardware requirements.

Even on devices with Windows pre-installed, Microsoft Office apps aren’t included by default. You’ll need to get those separately – see our buying guide for details – although there are ways to get access for free.

We’ve also included some Chromebooks here, as laptops running Google’s Chrome OS are typically very affordable. The operating system is fairly basic and relies on an internet connection for a lot of tasks, but this will be perfect for some people.  If that sounds good, we have a separate guide to the best Chromebooks you can buy.

However, unless you can find one with a big discount, no devices running Apple’s macOS are cheap enough to be considered budget.

5.

Which budget laptop is best for students?

Budget laptops are a popular option for anyone in full-time education, especially if you just need a device for the basics.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but all the devices in this article are worth considering. Consider each of the points above, and make sure you’re very clear on how much you need to spend and what you need it for.

If you require a laptop for video editing or graphic design, for example, a budget laptop probably won’t be sufficient. But our student laptop chart includes more in-depth buying advice.

6.

What if I can’t find the exact budget laptop reviewed?

We do our best to make sure all the laptops listed here are available to buy in the US and UK. However, the budget laptop market is volatile, and retailers tend to only have limited stock of any model. There’s a chance it can go out of stock without us noticing, but we check as often as we can.

Also, remember that companies often make many variations of the same laptop, with only small differences between them (such as the size of hard drive or amount of RAM). It’s generally safe to buy one of these alternatives if you understand what those differences will mean for you.